Sussex Renters’ Union has occupied Jubilee building on campus

The university has branded it as ‘unlawful’


This morning, 15 students from Sussex Renters’ Union occupied Jubilee building on Sussex campus.

The occupation is held in solidarity with the ongoing UCU strikes around staff pensions and fairer working conditions. The group are also demanding a commitment from the university for accessible and equitable hybrid learning.

The University of Sussex has branded the occupation “unlawful” and said they would take disciplinary action against anyone involved unless they left immediately.

The group announced the occupation on twitter this morning, alongside their full official statement.

“We’re dissatisfied (to say the least) with our university’s lack of meaningful commitment to liberated higher education. Our most recent, but certainly not exclusive, issue with management, is their failure to provide proper support for staff, to facilitate hybrid learning.

“We are here to show support for their fights: an end to precarious working conditions; an end to racist, ableist and gendered pay gaps; an end to real term pay cuts; an end to exploitative workloads; and fair pensions.”

 

A spokesperson for The University of Sussex said “A small number of people have unlawfully entered and locked themselves inside one of the lecture theatres on our campus. We have temporarily moved online any lectures due to take place there, while we consider what further action to take.”

The occupiers have since received a note from the university’s Director for the Student Experience, Jayne Aldridge, which read: “We want to ensure you are aware that you have breached university regulations, and you have also broken the law with unlawful entry to the premises.

“We understand that you wish to make a point and you have but you are disrupting the eduction of hundreds of your fellow students in taking this action. Therefore, we will give you an hour to vacate the premises, and would urge you to do this. If you decide not to vacate the premises then we will be taking disciplinary action against everyone known to be involved.”

A spokesperson for the Sussex Renters’ Union told The Tab of their response to Aldridge’s letter. “Jayne Aldridge. We have received your letter and have discussed it amongst our group. Your letter is a disproportionate response to students merely enacting their right to protest peacefully.

“We want to make it clear that we are not going to leave until are demands are met. We acknowledge that the disruption is difficult for students, and for it to end we urge you to meet our demands as well as those of UCU Sussex. We have received endless support from students, staff and the general public, although we are causing disruption, the greater disruption to education is being caused by outsourcing, understaffing, and overworking staff members.”

They added “University’s, particularly Sussex, during strike action, during student protest, love to say things like ‘you’re disrupting the student body’ and ‘there’s nothing we could possible do’ which isn’t true. It’s disrupting to the student body that, like immune compromised people can’t access education at the moment. There are racist, sexist, gendered, ableist pay gaps that disproportionately affect most marginalised people who have to do labour anyway.

“All of the staff are overworked, and underpaid, they can’t provide us good learning conditions, like they’re not supported by the university day-in-day out and the university is constantly trying to up their workload without supporting them. That is the disruption to students.

“Sussex has a huge amount of power and sway. They can’t click their fingers and solve the UCU pension dispute but they can click their fingers and complete change their TAC and back their workers, back their students, and back the conditions of the above groups, and use their voice at national negotiations and use their huge platforms.

“We know the university with Sasha Roseneil, the new Vice-Chancellor coming in, they are trying to sort of re-brand and sort of have this unique image, reclaiming this kind of progressive brand that they have absolutely squandered. There’s a really good opportunity here for Sussex to actually be leading, and actually be sort of unique and stand out on their own in a really inspired direction, and they’re currently not doing that.

They’re choosing to threaten their students, and they’re choosing to ignore their staff, and so we’re here to stay.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Sussex students protest against the response to sexual assault claims

Voices from the rent strike’s virtual picket lines 

Sussex students protest against police presence on campus